Verizon Partners with SPC to Close the Achievement Gap


group of people celebrating contribution from Verizon

Verizon and St. Petersburg College (SPC) announced a $100,000 grant, funding SPC's initiative to close the achievement gap for African American males.

SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams expressed her gratitude for the grant.

"I can't tell you how grateful we are for this partnership with our friends at Verizon," Williams said. "It is truly about changing lives and communities for the better."

Williams noted that though Verizon has generously helped provide scholarships to needy students over the past three years - $150,000 for 150 students - the new grant goes above and beyond.

"They are helping to provide guiding support that directly assists our students who are experiencing the widest achievement gap: our African American male students," Williams said.

Michelle Robinson, Vice President of Government Affairs at Verizon, came from Atlanta to present the check. She said it was good to see the critical areas that the African American Male Initiative is dedicated to, like mentoring, academic success, professional development for teachers, and leveraging technology.

"We want them ready for those careers of the future in today's digital society, whatever the industry is," Robinson said. "We want them confident and competent to go out there and achieve success in the classroom and then after they leave."

Jonathan Bristol, his son and Michelle Robinson, Vice President of Government Affairs at Verizon SPC Student Jonathan Bristol shared his struggle as a single father working multiple low-paying jobs to pay the bills and find a way to go to college. Bristol said he was inspired by Ernest Gant, who heads the college's PITCH program, to go back to school. Gant also helped him gain a Verizon scholarship that assisted with his rent and bills, which gave him the opportunity to meet often with tutors and focus on his schoolwork. Suddenly, his grades started going up.

"After I received the Verizon scholarship, it was the first time I was able to pass all my classes," Bristol said. "I just want to thank Verizon for having the funds available for me to use all the resources I was able to use at St. Pete College, because I was able to stay out here (on campus) for four weeks just to improve my classes. So I want to say thanks to Verizon and thanks to St. Pete College for the resources you have available for us."

Williams echoed the thanks, noting that by working together, we can end generational cycles of poverty by training students for stable, high-wage careers that they can build their lives around.

"I am humbled and thankful for your support, Verizon," Williams said. "You are helping us change the lives of our students at SPC and helping us to be more responsive to the students and communities we serve."